Austin Eastciders made an appearance last week at John Lewis's Nassau Street Saloon party, a Charleston Wine + Food event that celebrated the best of Austin with a chicken s**t bingo game, live music from Dale Watson and plenty of cider from Austin Eastciders, the number three craft cider company in the country and number one in Texas. Its six varieties of ciders are now available in South Carolina.

Austin Eastciders got its start in 2013 with Original Dry Cider and also offers Texas Honey, Hopped Cider, Blood Orange, Pineapple Cider and Ruby Red Grapefruit. In 2017, the Austin-based cidery shipped more than 500,000 cases. In the Charleston area, it's available at Lowe's Foods and Harris Teeters, and you can bet it will start popping up on bar menus around town.

Another new entry into the market is Botanist & Barrel Cidery & Winery. Located on a blueberry farm in North Carolina, where the craft cider market grew at a rapid 55 percent clip last year, Botanist & Barrel specializes in sour and barrel-aged ciders. Their latest release, a sour raspberry cider, was aged in a sea salt bourbon barrel. They also plan to release a new line of bottle and keg-conditioned ciders this summer.

"We want to bring traditional ciders with a modern twist to beer, wine and cider drinkers to showcase the versatility of ciders and other fermented fruits," said Lyndon Smith, co-owner of Botanist & Barrel in a press release. Smith owns and operates B&B with his sister Kether Smith. They will be in craft bottle shops and wine bars by the end of the month.

Sarah O'Kelley at Edmund's Oast Exchange recently tasted some of Botanist & Barrel's ciders and is considering carrying a few options. "I'm always skeptical of aging in barrels, but the one they aged in a tequila barrel, that complemented the funky cider flavors with the grassy tequila flavor and was really good." She also likes that it comes bottled rather than canned. She was also impressed with their dry-hopped cider. "It had a floral nose like a wine and it was really dry and funky."

Craft cider has been a popular drink category for several years and in 2017 the craft industry saw double digit increases in sales, according to Nielsen, and O'Kelley expects that trend to continue as more and more American craft ciders come into the market. 

Follow Stephanie Barna on Twitter @stefbarna.

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